COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Jairo Henriquez produced a winner with six minutes to go before a pair of late goals by Aaron Wheeler iced the game as Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC took a 3-0 victory against Rio Grande Valley FC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense at Weidner Field.
In a balanced display, the Switchbacks held control for much of the game, holding their visitors to only one shot on target before finding the decisive finish they needed late in the contest for Henriquez’s four of the season.
Hosting their first playoff game in six years, the Switchbacks grabbed the initiative early and almost opened the scoring in the third minute. A cleverly delivered free kick from the left by Cam Lindley found Macauley King cutting into the near side of the penalty area, and King’s shot flashed across the face of goal and wide of the right post. Michee Ngalina also went close for the hosts with a long-range effort that was saved by Toros goalkeeper Tyler Deric.
Colorado Springs continued to have the better of the game overall, and the Toros were forced into an early substitution when Deric was injured in a collision in his own penalty area, a move that saw back-up goalkeeper Colin Miller enter the contest. Miller passed his first big test less than a minute into the second half when Ngalina broke in alone onto a through-ball by Henriquez only to be denied by a sliding save by the goalkeeper.
Chances proved hard to come by overall for the visitors, and their first serious effort on goal didn’t arrive until the 66th minute when Emilio Ycaza got a clear look from 20 yards in the left channel but saw his shot saved at the left post by Switchbacks goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell. As extra time began to threaten, though, Henriquez delivered for the hosts as the El Salvador international latched onto a ball over the top by Triston Hodge that was misjudged by Miller, allowing Henriquez to slide his finish home into an open net.
The Switchbacks then put the game away in the final minute as the Toros pushed forward, allowing space for Ngalina to counter down the right side. The Congolese winger delivered a low cross to Wheeler, who slid home a finish inside the right post to add a second before then adding a third in stoppage time to clinch Colorado Springs’ first playoff win since its inaugural season in 2015.
USLChampionship.com Player of the Match
Jairo Henriquez, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Henriquez scored the winner for the hosts and had a positive all-around display, completing 20 of 25 passes and creating a pair of chances as well.
COS – Jairo Henriquez (Triston Hodge) 84’
COS – Aaron Wheeler (Michee Ngalina) 90’
COS – Aaron Wheeler (Steven Echevarria) 90+4’